HAO RAN, PEN NAME OF LIANG JINGUANG (1932—2007) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

HAO RAN, PEN NAME OF LIANG JINGUANG (1932—2007). Novelist. Born in the industrial mining town of Tangshan, Hao Ran, orphaned at 12, grew up in a rural village and had only three years of formal schooling. He joined the Communist Youth League in 1949 and later worked as a journalist and editor for newspapers and magazines including Hebei ribao (Hebei Daily) and Hong qi zazhi (The Red Flag). He became a professional writer and a member of the Beijing Cultural Association in 1964.

Hao Ran began his career in the 1950s by writing about the progress made in the countryside under the leadership of Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party. Two works, Yanyang tian (Bright Clouds) and Jinguang dadao (The Golden Road: A Story of One Village in the Uncertain Days after Land Reforms), made Hao the most famous writer during the Cultural Revolution. Both works deal with the success of land reform and collectivization in China’s rural communities, focusing on class struggle and the conflict within the party between progressives and conservatives.

Written in the style of socialist realism, these novels portray village leaders as “perfect heroes” who represent the new, awakened peasants who are grateful to Mao Zedong and the party for having liberated them and who follow the party’s policies unwaveringly. Hao Ran’s other works written during this era include Xisha ernü (Sons and Daughters of Xisha) and Baihua chuan (The River of Flowers), both written under the auspices of Mao’s wife Jiang Qing and her associates. Since the fall of the Gang of Four, Hao has published a number of short story collections and two novels, Shanshui qing (Love of the Land) and Cangsheng (The Common People), with the latter winning a special award for Chinese popular literature in 1991. All of Hao Ran’s major works concern peasant life, with which he is intimately connected.

Hao Ran’s standing in the history of modern Chinese literature is a hotly debated topic. His admirers consider him a bona fide realist writer whose works accurately reflect the enthusiasm and adulation the Chinese peasants had for the Communist Party and its socialist revolution. His detractors, on the other hand, dismiss his works written before and during the Cultural Revolution as distortions of rural reality, which advocate, with simplistic and crude techniques, for the leftist policies that have proved to be disastrous for China’s rural economy. The debate notwithstanding, that Hao continued to succeed in the post-Mao era shows that he was a writer with real talent. Apparently tired of politics and the shadows cast over him by his past, Hao Ran moved out of the capital to a small town in Hebei in 1986 and lived there until his death.